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Coronavirus Roundup: Amy Klobuchar Presses Critical Connections, CRS Outlines Broadband Challenges, INCOMPAS Filing

Adrienne Patton

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Photo of Sen. Amy Klobuchar in August 2019 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

March 25, 2020 – Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., along with several other colleagues, announced the Keeping Critical Connections Act to help rural America connect to broadband during the coronavirus crisis.

“The Keeping Critical Connections Act would help small broadband providers continue offering free or discounted broadband services to families and students in rural areas to ensure they remain connected to school, work, and their communities during this period of economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Klobuchar.

Under the act, Congress would allocate $2 billion to fund the effort.

Congressional Research Service outlines challenges to broadband during coronavirus pandemic

The Congressional Research Service outlined the various challenges to moving all everyday operations to a broadband-enabled environment during the coronavirus pandemic: namely, the digital divide.

“Approximately 29 percent of workers in the United States may be able to work from home,” the report nonetheless questions whether available networks can sustain such large demand.

While 21.3 million Americans do not have access to broadband, thousands of schools across the U.S. are teaching entirely online, which leaves children who do not have a connection behind.

The report references inaccurate FCC broadband maps has misrepresenting the percentage of people who have no access, meaning more than 21.3 million Americans could lack broadband.

INCOMPAS files comments with FCC on Missouri towns’ efforts to charge in right-of-way

INCOMPAS, an association for internet and competitive networks, filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission supporting Uniti and Bluebird Network’s request to deny Missouri towns’ attempts to charge both companies.

“Four cities in Missouri demanded payments from both Bluebird, as the network operator, and Uniti, as the network owner for access to the public rights-of-way even though there was no increase in the cities rights-of-way costs as a result of the transaction,” INCOMPAS said.

INCOMPAS General Counsel Angie Kronenberg said, “We urge the FCC to expedite Uniti’s request, and strongly encourage all policy makers—federal, state and local—to stand against duplicative or hidden fees and efforts to depress the growth in streaming, cloud and over-the-top services that drive new investment and create jobs.”

Kronenberg said that company partnerships with municipalities “help families access the benefits of the 5G future.”

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